All photos by Ted Axelrod
For their first Portland restaurant, The North Point, Dan and Noah Talmatch did much of the work themselves, outfitting the narrow, former hair salon on Silver Street with quirky design elements and paintings by their late brother, Ezra, to create a cozy, eclectic and deeply personal space.
Timber Steakhouse & Rotisserie, which Noah and Dan will open at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 29 at 106 Exchange Street, has a completely different look. Befitting a city steakhouse, it’s sleek and swanky, with plenty of rustic wood elements to reflect its name. Where The North Point cocoons guests in dark corners, Timber will put diners on display — at the long, prominent bar or on the banquette just opposite.
As I chatted with them in the new space last week, the brothers made it clear that their philosophy for both restaurants is the same.
“Portland has been very good to us and very accommodating to us,” said Noah . “When we were doing this, we kept that in mind. We’re motivated to give them something beautiful. The people of Portland deserve something beautiful.”
The North Point, which opened in March, 2013, was an immediate success. Despite its somewhat off-the-beaten path location and its petite size, the brothers’ genuine joy at serving their guests were as much of a draw as the good food and drink. Just a few months later: the wine bar was named “Editor’s Choice Best Cocktail Bar” by DownEast magazine.
“Danny and I are masters of accommodation. We don’t say ‘no,’ we say ‘we’ll see what we can do,'” said Noah. “We served 60,000 people at North Point in one year. If something is wrong [for a guest] — whatever it is — we’re going to make it right.”
From a wine bar with a small plates menu to a big-ticket steakhouse is a sizable leap, but Noah, who has significant New York City restaurant experience, and Dan, for whom North Point was the first dining venture, are well poised for the jump.
The menu is classic steakhouse, with some less-traditional dishes in the mix. The appetizer list includes jumbo shrimp cocktail ($18) and steak tartare ($14), but also “smokey bourbon-infused chicken chili” ($12) and “batter-dipped fried bacon strips with Maine maple syrup.” ($8) Steaks — 16 oz. New York strip ($46), 10 oz. filet mignon ($26), 40-day aged, 24 oz. ribeye ($55) and a 2-pound porterhouse ($78) — are all Certified Angus Beef.
“When you eat here, you will be guaranteed that it will be delicious,” said Noah.
The brothers have also invested in a sophisticated piece of equipment — “like a Ferrari,” joked Noah — to slow-roast rotisserie chicken. A half ($16) or whole chicken ($21) will be served with a choice of two dipping sauces: l’orange, Thai peanut, BBQ, bourbon peppercorn, and seven more. Sides, including steakhouse staples like creamed spinach and onion rings, are all a la carte.
Timber is a dinner restaurant, but the brothers insist that they want people to stop in for drinks and small bites, too. They won’t start seating guests for dinner until 6:30 and will keep one-quarter of the seats available for walk-ins.
For the design and build-out of the space that had been Oriental Table for more than 40 years, they hired Mainetainers of Windham, who Noah credits with — among many other creative efforts — the “time and love” it took to fit together the rough-hewn log “slices” that cover one wall and the bar front. The bar stools and dining chair backs are made of the same log pieces.
To the left of the entrance, is a small lounge area where a piano player will entertain every evening. The bar, with 26 seats, is deliberately positioned across from the banquette, allowing for a “see and be seen” atmosphere. A small raised area at the back of the restaurant will offer more intimate dining. The prominent color is a muted gold/tan; LED lighting behind the banquette and above the bar will make the room glow.
“I want this to have that sultry, sexy, cosmopolitan feeling, along with the feeling of Maine,” said Noah. “When you walk in, it takes your breath away … there’s a piano playing … but it won’t be pretentious. We give people incredible service. We want to give them a classy steakhouse with a modern Maine twist.”
Top-tier service is a common theme for the brothers, who are effusively proud of their team for Timber. Henry Yost, formerly of Cantina el Rayo, will run the bar; the chef is Casey Christensen, previously at Harrison’s in Stowe, Vt., and Jason Daly, formerly of A Moveable Feast, is the sous chef. Managers are Richard Ferraro, who came from the Portland Regency Hotel and Sarah Mason, a veteran of The Great Lost Bear.
“We only put out one ad — everyone else came to us,” said Noah. “We let everyone know right from the beginning: the guest is what matters.”
Coming down the road: A renovation of the large brick patio behind the restaurant, where a small outbuilding will also be revamped as an outdoor bar.